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tv   To the Contrary With Bonnie Erbe  PBS  June 26, 2011 9:30am-10:00am EDT

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>> funding for "to the contrary" provided by: >> the attive fuel debate is over. this is lexus hybrid technology designed to optimize any fuel conceivable. this is the pursuit of perfection. additional funding provided by: the colcom foundation and by the charles a. frueauff foundation >> this week on "to the contrary with bonnie erbe:" up first, how the supreme court decision in wal-mart's class-action lawsuit will impact future gender discrimination cases.
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then, what the withdrawal of u.s. troops from afghanistan will mean for afghan women's rights. behind the headlines, a new book examines the state of marriage and how spouses are rewriting the rules. hello, i'm karen dewitt in for bonnie erbe. welcome to "to the contrary," a discussion of news and social trends from diverse perspectives. up first, wal-mart's legal victory: after their supreme court loss this week, american women who want to sue wal-mart for gender discrimination, on behalf of 1.5 million co-workers, say they'll continue their fight. this time with smaller lawsuits in lower courts and claims with the u.s. equal employment opportunity commission.
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in a 5-4 ruling, the court ruled against allowing the largest class action lawsuit to move forward. the justices did not decide whether wal-mart had discriminated against the women, only that the women could not sue as a class. the three female justices, along with justice stephen breyer dissented in part to the court's decision. justice ruth bader ginsburg said there was evidence "gender bias suffused wal-mart's corporate culture." women comprise 70% of the hourly workers at wal-mart but only one-third of management positions. >> those statistics are shocking. and they have statistics that there were huge pay disparities despite women having more experience and better performance reviews. that wasn't enough in this case the supreme court said the way they put it together. so that's a problem. justice ginsburg's dissent really outlined why this is the
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type of case that should be able to be brought as a single class; it made very clear that these sorts of practices, they aren't accidental. >> this landmark case could affect future class-action lawsuits because it tightened the definition of what constitutes a common issue for a class action. some legal experts say this decision is a major victory not just for wal-mart but other big u.s. companies facing class-action claims from their female workers. >> it's going to make it far harder for women, far harder for workers to be able to join together as a single class, particularly in trying to challenge large companies. because the real message the supreme court sent this week was that if you're a company that's incredibly big, you can really be too big to be challenged in a single form for discrimination.
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>> representative norton as former head of the eeoc is this a setback for women? >> oh, karen. this case is a setback, for people of color it is a setback for ordinary americans, for whom the law and its legal remedies have no meaning. without class action. >> i'm go to have to disagree say i think this is in the a step back but step forward and reigning in out of control judiciary and deal system that ultimately will benefit men and women. >> this is definitely a setback for women who are regularly discriminated against in the workplace and also discriminated against in the legal system. but i also agree it's a huge set back for the class action suit which takes care of the every day individual that captain afford to bring a suit by themselves. >> absolutely not. of i think what this does is it reaffirms definition of the rules of civil procedure concerning what constitutes a
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class and class action suit the ability for individuals to sue or even for class action suit to take place, just simply reaffirms the definition but not as broadly determined. >> we have 50-50 split right here on our own supreme court. do any of you agree with justice ginsburg talking about the corporate culture of wal-mart as being suffuse with gender bias, 70% women and small percentage in manage. >> beyond that, this case has discrimination no matter how you look at it. women earning more than -- less than a dollar when compared with men, disparity of a dollar or so compared to men doing the same job. you've got centralized personnel system. but one that said you in the field have absolute discretion about who to hire. what did scalia say was the
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policy? the policy was what we now require every employer to put up on his wall, you must not discriminate. that was the policy. >> but in this case the problem is, you had three women representing 1.5 million other employee former and current employees. and the problem with that is, that they had different stories, different stores in different locations, different managers, there was no way what scalia said in his -- that would you be able to under the rules of evidence what you need to be able to prove. >> i disagree. you are always going to have that in a class action suit. you are always going to have cultural differences, geological -- geographical differences, always of a that. the problem is that preemptive getting to the heart of the the case before you could even find if they had common causes, common actions against wal-mart, what happened to them. it was pretty much summarily
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dismissed. >> why >> why can't people bring these cases on their own. >> let me finish. >> bring it on your own? >> if you have a -- >> a corporation? >> i understand but if you have a strong case there's plenty of attorneys out there who -- >> there isn't. i practiced law, a case against wal-mart would have buried me in paperwork. there's no way. we all require people to put up the money. in this country we have a
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>> absolutely better, because you can just bury an individual routinely and send the same type of paperwork to make them try to discover the one thing that they have asked for. so much better, also it's going to cut down on your ability to be sued in this case, you will not be able to have an attorney say, yes. maybe it's a small amount of money you'll get for the individual. maybe it's only $20,000 in back pay which is a lot for the individual but that's not enough to take on a corporation. >> will this decision protect other big companies from class action suits? let me hear from this side of the table. >> i do think this draws the line in the stand that's what you saw happening here with the court. as i said at the top of the show you have the lawsuits are out of control. both at the individual level in many cases but also at the class action level. and it's one in this can i can agree with you that this very difficult for one individual to come up against entire company the size of wal-mart. but to come up say $1.5 million female employees now need back
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pay, damages of 1.5 million did not raise their hand say, i want to be a part of this necessarily. i was terminated against. that is cross can the line. >> the whole court agree -- the that's right. what the court said was, these people should be able to -- what the court said was, these people should be able to -- the court should look at another rule right there which is part of the same rule rather than to throw the whole case out. this is a court that is called the corporate court for a reason. it has sided time and again with corporations over the little guy and when you ask, karen, about whether this will affect people outside of discrimination cases, a class action is a class action, many of them have to do with consumer rights. they have to do with rights all across the board this affects, that's what i mean by ordinary americans, this affects every litigant who can't -- who can only get a remedy if he joins with other litigants.
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>> just requires that you maintain -- >> entire level of -- >> high level of -- >> the rates of -- >> what's wrong with having a higher level? >> i think we're going to agree to disagree as they say it's to the contrary here. >> from american women workers to afghan women's rights. president obama's plan to withdraw troops from afghanistan has afghan women wondering what impact it will have on their rights. afghanistan continues to be named the worst country in which to be a woman, according to thompson-reuters. many women are concerned the taliban could return to power. others believe peace talks will give them a voice to protect their own rights. women's rights groups in afghanistan are fighting to be heard and to have a seat at the table when the peace talks begin. secretary of state hillary clinton told afghan women "we
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will not abandon you." and congresswomen cathy mcmorris rodgers and donna edwards launched the afghan women's task force this week to foster discussions about women's rights in the country. what impact does the united states have on women's rights in average and what responsibility do we have? >> i think we as country have lot of response to people of average being that we're there. i don't know how they can say we will not abandoned you. that's what we're going to do to the whole country not just women by the pull out of troops. i don't think there's any doubt if i was a woman in afghanistan i'd be very concerned about what president obama announced. >> there's a few things going on here. i don't know necessarily at this point after being in afghanistan for ten years that we are going to -- our presence there is going to make a difference in
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tribal culture that has been a certain way. you are looking to change a culture that will take centuries to change. and the people and gains are very minimal. they're limited to within kabul and only a very small percentage of the elite there, this has nothing to -- still the oppression, all the draconian things that we as western women look at as being awful circumstances still exist in these tribes, are we going to keep our troopss this worth american blood to keep shedding? i don't think so. it's been a trillion dollars we spent there we need to think. is this what american's roles should be? >> this is where the american people are coming to. that is who came at us as your pentagon. we have been there for ten years, longer than we've been in any war including the civil war.
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and i agree with you, you are not -- you're going to see almost every gain we have made just vanished when we leave. you cannot impose even the best value on a society. a society has to be changed from within, that's a lot you can do but to fool ourselves by thinking that if we remain there, how long. somehow there will be permanent change to acron tree which, exwi the way is so storied that the word on afghanistan, the history of afghanistan is that no great power who has ever come to afghanistan and had a lasting affect on that country. who do we think we some are. >> i recently met with some women from afghanistan and some who are dissidents, some who are in the legal profession. there have been changes made, i think npr came out with a report that said in the last like two years we've gone from one
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million women going to school to seven million young girls. so, i'm concerned that those changes, because i do think through education and access you do make permanent changes. so i think there is a -- >> let me just -- i don't think our goal -- to change the culture. but i will say this, i think our goal is to stabilize the region and it also shows when you educate women when they go in to positions of power that the country stabilized. i mean, that's a given. i think that's why it's important. >> let me ask you all a question do you think the taliban is going to return? >> absolutely. as soon as we leave the whole thing is going to collapse and the taliban will take back over and -- >> more importantly al qaeda is still there. not perhaps, they're there. this idea that just because bin laodicean now gone means everything fine and -- >> i don't think anybody thinks that. >> the president alluded to the fact that that is one of the reasons we can make this level of -- >> that is a -- >> i think everybody thinks --
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>> i don't think everything is okay but my point the folks that are on the ground there, his own military advisors, petraeus, pentagon and others have said this is too many. 10,000 at one point, everybody coming out in the next year -- >> you cannot wage a war in a democratic country you cannot wage a war if the people are not with you. the people. united states are no longer with this war. >> that's true. >> i don't think the demonstrations in the -- >> i see the -- >> listen, he can run on that. but we don't -- >> hold on. the political reality is -- >> what are you talking about? >> the reality is -- >> ladies? wait a minute. all all. >> we cannot continue to support a corrupt centralized government in afghanistan it's a failed strategy, we don't need 100,000 troops, there a small contingent of our soldiers special forces trying to secure the region and
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that was the way to go. they resent us for our presence there and it does not bring sievevillely to the -- >> the issue about the women -- >> let me hear about -- >> i think this secretary clinton is so involved with so many women's organizations and supportive. i think we're going to have to also look to women around the globe to support afghanistan. to support these changes, to go in there, do the work, do the volunteer work, send them money. there's other ways to support afghanistan. >> that's what the u.n. is -- the ngos do. no more american blood. >> as you can see, it was a lively discussion. once again, people are all over the map. now, behind the headlines: marriage confidential. long gone are the days of the 1950's housewife. but are today's marriages any happier? a new book explores marriages in
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a post-romantic age and examines the rise of what author pamela haag calls semi-happy marriages. >> i think the good news is we're marrying our best friends, and the bad news is we're marrying our best friends. i think this is one of the most dramatic changes for marriage. again, we're marrying people who are very similar to us. and that's fabulous, because you get compatibility, you get partnership, and that's a wonderful development on the whole. the struggle is that a marriage can become too much like any other kind of partnership, or any other kind of friendship. >> while women today have more opportunities than the housewives betty friedan wrote about in the "feminine mystique," haag says for many women, marriages are still unfulfilling. these "workhorse wives" feel the pressure to maintain satisfying jobs while being full-time wives and mothers. >> i don't believe that women are as frustrated today, because
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of feminism we have some basic protections and rights that make it much easier to maneuver in a marriage or to change marriage or to leave a marriage. however goes the fairness issues are still pertinent to women, they're still experiencing issues of feeling that there is something fundamentally unfair in out the marriage and family life and career work it's never really equal in terms of child cropped house work it was emphatic agreement on that point. so i think we're better off, but a pattern is developing a little more on how we feel about marriage. but the dream that betty friedan >> marriage isn't the only thing that's changed.
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fifty years ago, children were today, roles have switched, and haag argues marriage may be taking a backseat to motherhood. >> in my book, i humorously call children "the new spouses," and by that i mean that they can very quickly become the emotional and romantic and intimate focal points of the family. children have always been, obviously, a major part of marriage and the family, but in the 1950s for example, marriage had a whole bunch of different roles as well. the parenting styles today can be very intense and involved. we have helicopter parents, we have hyper parents, we have very attached parents. parenting fashions really put a premium on intensive ongoing parenting. and that's a good thing, but it also puts strain on the marriage. >> in a society where 40% of americans believe marriage is becoming obsolete, marriage may
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no longer be a priority. in fact, over the last 50 years, the marriage rate has dropped by 20 points. haag says that is why marriage needs to be flexible to change. >> i think marriage is headed into a brainstorming phase, so i think that we have all sorts of different ideas about it and we also are trying to understand it. there are people who support a revival of traditional patriarchal marriage, really, majority short same-sex marriage and others who believe that marriage is obsolete. >> let me say i celebrate 27 years of wedded bliss just a week ago. but, you know, i don't think it is. and part of my legal career at one point i practiced family law, i probably divorced over 300 people, boy did i see all kinds of relationships, all kinds of turmoil, different reasons for getting soared or maybe reconciling. i think marriage is a wonderful
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institution, i think it's shown over the years that it can bend, it can sway, it can adapt. and it's really up to the individuals, it really is. i think it's hard to make any blanket statements like it's obsolete. i'm shocked at that figure. that 40% of americans think that. >> if that's the case that's very alarming. that's how selfish we have all become. because a marriage is -- i'm not married, what i hear, marriage is supposed to be about -- plenty of friends of mine who are married who have been in unhappy marriages, stay in unhappy marriages, gotten divorced i've seen a lot of that. my understanding is that marriage is supposed to be an equal partnership and covenant between you and another person and you have to work at it. that's why they tell you you should wait to have children so you can get to know your spouse, you guys can enjoy that time together, then have children because that's whole different responsibility. but accepting a semi happy marriage, i think is, i don't think that's healthy either.
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>> i think she's -- i think talking about a state of marriages always been there. but not been explored. we explore the blissful people, we explore the people who are most unhappy. the ones you say you divorced as a judge, but we really don't know much about the couple that stays together. but dual-worker families are less likely to be all in to each other because they have got a lot of other interests. so get used to it. maybe it's better that way. because when you have a wife, for example, of the 1950s kind who is supposed to serve the husband or man who has to bring home obligator remarriage, you call that happy, one wonders, particularly if you stay married for years and years if happy should not be defined by your
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time in life and by the kind of satisfaction that you get out of the relationship. >> i think it's hard, when you look at the media the way that we talk about what love should look like and what happy marriages should look like, it's just not bliss 24-7. all the time, every month, every year, so forth. we know that in any relationship. in any job is not perfect all the time. that is a lot of what you see. we've made it easier in this culture to get divorced and it's fine with it. part that have is no fault divorce laws, there are pros to those, too. but reality is we make it very easy for people just to walk out and not only do we legally let them walk out we easily let people come and go. that's not a good thing. >> let me ask the question, how do children impact marriages and whether they're happy or not happy and i liked what you talked about, that people have other things to do. but historically families, before we all went to offices, they did have other things to do. they worked on a farm, the wife
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was doing something, the husband was doing something. how do children impact? >> they impact it a lot. you can have all kinds of issues with your children, you don't always have happy kids. [laughter] so, it can put a financial strain on the family, it can put an emotional strain on the family. that's all part of family life. sure, all these things like they always have affect marriages. but you know, also get in to them easily, too. >> that's it for this edition of "to the contrary." next week: the state of women in america. please visit us on our website for "to the contrary extra." whether your views are in agreement or to the contrary, please join us next time.
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>> funding for "to the contrary" provided by: >> the alternative fuel debate is over. this is lexus' hybrid technology designed to optimize any fuel conceivable. this is the pursuit of perfection. additional funding provided by: the colcom foundation and by the charles a. frueauff foundation for videotapes of "to the contrary", please contact federal news service at 1-888-343-1940. tñ
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